For the U.S. Women’s National Team, the Tokyo Olympics began the same way the Rio Olympics ended: with a stunning loss to Sweden.
What was expected to be a revenge game for the U.S. instead was a validating performance by Sweden, which dominated from start to finish in a 3-0 win during the Tokyo Olympics opener for both teams.
The U.S. came to Tokyo having waited five years for the chance to avenge its shocking quarterfinal loss to Sweden in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was the USWNT’s earliest exit in a major tournament, as the team failed to reach the gold medal game for first time since 1996 when women’s soccer was introduced to the Games.
Yet, it was Sweden that played like a team looking for gold and vengence, applying immediate pressure to create early scoring opportunities. After Sweden received three of its seven first-half corner kicks in the opening 10 minutes, and the U.S. struggled with misclears, careless giveaways, ill-advised crosses and overall lethargic play, the World Cup champions soon found themselves in an unfamiliar and uexpected position: playing from behind.
Sofia Jakobsson sent a cross to Stina Blackstenius, whose header past diving goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher gave Sweden a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. The first-half deficit for the U.S. could have been larger had it not been for a potential goal-saving sliding tackle by Crystal Dunn in the 30th minute and a diving stop by Naeher on a deep strike minutes later.
Six of Sweden’s 10 shots were on goal in the first half, compared to just one of three for the United States, which mustered one first-half corner kick.
The best first-half scoring chance for the U.S. came in the closing minutes when Rose Lavelle’s header off a ball played over the top hit the post in the 45th minute.
Sweden took a 2-0 lead off a corner kick in the 56th minute when Amanda Ilestedt’s header hit the back post and the rebound was knocked in by Blackstenius.
Lina Hurtig’s header off a feed from Hanna Glas made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute.
It was the first loss for the USWNT since January 2019 when they lost to France, snapping a 44-game unbeaten streak. The USWNT also struggled with Sweden in April when the two teams played to a 1-1 draw during a friendly in Stockholm, with the U.S. needing a late penalty kick from Megan Rapinoe to pull even.
Sweden earns three points for the victory, establishing itself as the early favorite in Group G. The U.S. now faces what is essentially must-win game when they face New Zealand on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
It’s no longer about vengeance, it’s about survival.
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